When I'm Still Here debuted at the Venice Film Festival, it was billed as a documentary tracking Joaquin Phoenix's retirement from acting, pursuit of a career as a hip hop artist, and attendant drug- and alcohol-fuelled debauchery. Critics, including our own Dana Stevens , questioned whether the film was, in fact, a documentary, or rather a bizarre hoax. Last week, Casey Affleck, the film's director, admitted to the Times that the film is "performance art." (That is, a hoax.) Can I'm Still Here , a film marketed as a documentary, but plainly a piece of fiction, qualify for a best documentary award at the Oscars?
No. Just because you call your movie a documentary doesn't mean the Academy has to agree with you. According to the rules for the 83 rd Academy Awards , eligible docs may "employ partial reenactment, stock footage, stills," and animation but their "emphasis" must be "on fact and not on fiction." I'm Still Here clearly doesn't fit the bill.
A spokeswoman from the Academy has told Slate that, regardless of the film's content, it came out too late to qualify for the Best Documentary award — the cutoff is August 31 st 2010, and I'm Still Here hit American theaters on September 10 th . There is still time, however, to submit the film for the Best Motion Picture category, which closes December 1 st . And since Phoenix is playing a part (albeit a fictionalized version of himself), he's eligible for a Best Actor nomination.